You may recover damages if you suffer an injury due to someone’s negligence. After all, you must maintain quality of life and should not pay for medical care when you didn’t cause your injuries.
However, not all injury victims can recover compensation, so knowing fundamental legal principles is the crucial first step in a successful personal injury case.
What Is a Personal Injury Claim?
Injured parties can file personal injury cases after an accident to hold an at-fault party legally accountable for that harm. The injured party may receive compensation from the at-fault party’s insurance carrier for their medical bills, agony and suffering, and continuing medical costs.
If the case succeeds, the two parties will typically settle, aided by a knowledgeable personal injury attorney. However, should this settlement fail, a personal injury lawyer can represent you in civil court, where a judge or jury will determine legal responsibility through a court decision.
Common Types of Personal Injury Cases
Various injuries fall under the extensive legal category of personal injury. But attorneys see some personal injury cases more frequently:
One of the most prevalent categories of personal injury litigation involves auto accidents. The most common motor vehicle accidents are parking lot accidents, high-speed collisions, and intersection crashes.
Commercial trucks can weigh several tons. When drivers fail to take adequate care, their vehicles can cause extensive damage to others who are out on the roads. Personal injury attorneys represent clients who negligent drivers injured.
Whether failure to load a truck correctly, poor maintenance, driver fatigue, or unsafe driving cause a semi-truck accident, a personal injury lawyer works hard to pursue compensation for victims, who often face devastating injuries.
Wrongful Death Claims
A personal injury claim could develop into a wrongful death lawsuit if the victim dies due to their injuries. While the victim cannot file this claim themselves, the probate estate of the deceased victim and certain family members may bring a wrongful death claim and be awarded damages.
Whether the victim was a child or an adult will affect how much the victim can recover in damages. The court would also compensate the estate itself if it paid related fees like funeral and burial costs.
Slip and Fall Injuries
An owner or operator of a public building or private residence is responsible for ensuring that their property is secure for visitors, those carrying out official business (such as postal carriers), and to some extent, specific categories of trespassers. A personal injury claim resulting from a slip and fall accident is the most common premises liability claim.
Dangerous conditions can include inadequately secured railings, spills that property owners don’t clean up in a reasonable time, inadequate security, and vicious dogs.
Common injuries that occur in slip and fall accidents include:
- Sprains and muscle injuries
- Broken bones
- Back injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
Businesses are typically the targets of premises liability lawsuits. To avoid lawsuits, the owner or operator must inspect the property and fix any harmful condition in a reasonable time.
Animal Bites and Attacks
Dog bites account for most animal attacks and bite-related personal injury claims. For example, in California, a dog’s owner will be held liable for injuries inflicted by their dog, whether or not the dog bit somebody before. Dog owners are responsible for the damages that their pets cause. A personal injury claim can help dog bite victims to secure adequate compensation for their injuries.
The Elements of a Personal Injury Case
When initiating a claim based on accusations of defendant negligence, there are several elements that claimants must keep in mind:
The first question asked in a personal injury case is whether the other party owed you a duty of care. For example, in an automobile collision, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant owed the plaintiff a particular duty. This duty might be as simple as operating the vehicle carefully.
An illustration would be the obligation for all drivers to stop at red lights. A person’s responsibility to take some measures to prevent damage might become more problematic in other situations.
The plaintiff must prove that the defendant failed in their responsibility and caused harm. Continuing the above example, the plaintiff must show that someone disregarded their obligation by failing to stop at the red light.
The plaintiff must show that they suffered tangible bodily, mental, emotional, or monetary harm directly from the defendant’s breach of duty and that the defendant’s negligence also resulted in specified damages. You must demonstrate a connection between the duty violation and the harm you experienced.
The plaintiff must show that compensation from the defendant will make them whole again. These hurts and injuries should be measurable and correctable (at least partially) by monetary payment.
Types of Damages in a Personal Injury Case
Personal injury compensation comes in many different forms:
Financial losses are economic damages and cover out-of-pocket costs associated with the incident or your injuries. Bills you get from third parties relating to the accident may potentially count as monetary damages.
In a case involving a personal injury, economic damages can cover:
- Hospital bills, emergency room visits, or rehabilitative care
- Medical equipment
- Loss of benefits or income
- Damage to property
To ensure that you receive appropriate compensation, collect all invoices and receipts to show an accurate representation of your losses.
You may need to also plan for future economic losses. For instance, a personal injury incident might alter your ability to work like you used to. If you have to change jobs or shift the responsibilities that you cover at work, you may not be able to earn the same income you once had.
When valuing your injury claim, you might not be completely aware of the actual dollar amount of these losses. Fortunately, a personal injury attorney can help you identify and calculate the economic damages you may receive.
Non-economic damages cover the suffering a victim endures from injuries. These damages are arbitrary since everyone experiences pain differently. As a result, estimating the cost of pain and suffering damages can be difficult.
If you want to improve your chances of getting the most money for your non-economic losses, keep a record of your struggles while recovering. Your personal injury attorney can use information about tasks you cannot accomplish, your daily pain levels, depressive episodes, and the effect on your relationships with loved ones while arguing for the highest possible compensation.
How Do You Win a Settlement in a Personal Injury Case?
While every case is different, evidence and legal knowledge are necessary to succeed in each personal injury lawsuit. Therefore, hiring an attorney specializing in personal injury law and taking the below steps will give you the best chance at a fair settlement. You must also understand these principles and how they relate to your situation.
Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer
After being injured, your first task is to find and hire a personal injury attorney. The benefits of hiring an attorney are too great to ignore, even if you are not required to do so to submit an injury claim. Clients who hire attorneys typically recover higher settlements and experience less stress.
Send a Demand Letter
Once you have hired a personal injury attorney, they will draft a letter referred to as a demand letter. The center of each personal injury claim revolves around this letter, which details the injured party’s justification to the insurance provider for why they should cover the costs of the losses.
A demand letter generally details:
- The liability of the defendant
- A list of the wounds received
- What medical procedures were necessary and their associated costs
- The amount of income the claimant lost due to time off work
- Any further losses, such as discomfort
Upon reviewing the claim, the insurance company may opt to pay it out. But it’s all too likely that they will deny it. Insurance companies may reject a claim because they believe the accident was the injured party’s fault. They may also reject it, claiming the incident in question did not cause the victim’s injuries.
If there is insufficient proof to contradict the insurer’s claims, the injured party must go to the next stage of the procedure, which is filing a complaint.
File a Complaint
The plaintiff must formally notify the court and the defendant. Plaintiffs usually file official complaints against insurance providers. They can also file claims against negligent companies, public bodies, or individuals.
After filing, you have around 30 days to serve the defendant with the complaint. This delivery must be made in person to provide receipt documentation.
After receiving notification that you filed a lawsuit, the defendant has another 30 days to reply to the complaint. Upon reply, the case will continue as normal. But the court will grant the plaintiff a default judgment if the defendant doesn’t respond.
Discovery is a crucial component of any legal procedure. The attorneys for both the plaintiff and the defendant will gather evidence, research allegations, consult witnesses, and cross-examine parties during discovery. Depending on the situation, a deposition might be needed—a direct questioning of involved parties. In some cases, these interviews may take place under oath.
Both parties’ attorneys will start compiling medical bills and documents, police reports, information on wages, and insurance reports.
Using the material uncovered in discovery, a clear picture of what occurred can form, and the parties can negotiate the amount the defendant owes the plaintiff.
Litigation or Settlement
Before the case goes to court, the insurer can formally resolve the case with a settlement. Furthermore, the parties can settle anytime during a lawsuit, sometimes even before filing a formal complaint.
However, if the parties cannot settle, the case will go to trial. In a trial, the parties present their evidence to a judge or jury, who will decide whether to hold the defendant accountable for the plaintiff’s losses.
A jury trial is composed of six stages:
- Forming the jury
- Opening statements by each side
- Cross-examination and witness testimony
- Final arguments
- Jury instruction
- Jury deliberation and decision
A personal injury trial may go on for a few hours or several weeks. However, even short-duration trials need significant preparation from personal injury lawyers.
Did Someone’s Negligence Injure You?
As you now know, a personal injury case presents many complicated challenges. It’s difficult to convince an insurer to pay you, but the formal lawsuit and settlement procedures demand a trained professional’s skills. Therefore, never attempt to pursue damages without an attorney.
You can hold a negligent party responsible if their negligence led to your harm, and you deserve financial compensation for your suffering and financial losses. Contact a personal injury attorney with expertise in handling your claim to get the settlement you deserve.